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Israel’s skies could open as early as next week, health minister says

It is unclear how tourism would be revived after the fits and starts the industry has experienced over the past few months

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz holds a press conference after a visit at the Soroka Hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, Nov. 30, 2021. (Photo: Flash90)

Despite new restrictions Israel is imposing on its citizens in an effort to contain the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, international travel may resume as early as next week.

Israel's Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said that travel restrictions were moot since the virus mutation is already in Israel. Israel rapidly closed the borders to foreigners in late November when word emerged of a new COVID-19 variant rampaging throughout the world. The variant slipped into Israel despite the closed borders and is spreading like wildfire throughout the country.

“The moment infections are spreading, there is no point in stopping entry from abroad,” Horowitz told Kan Broadcasting on Sunday. “The opening of [Israel’s] skies won’t take much time, possibly next week.”

Currently, no foreigners are allowed in and Israelis are not allowed to travel to countries suspected of high COVID infections without a special exemption. But on Sunday, advisors to the government said the list can be scrapped because Omicron infections will likely surpass Delta cases all over the world in the next two weeks..

The United States is one of 70 countries on Israel’s no-fly list.

It is unclear how tourism would be revived after the fits and starts the industry has experienced over the past few months. The news comes as representatives of the tourism industry are staging a large protest in Tel Aviv, demanding compensation from the government or the return of tourists to the Holy Land.

Representatives of the tourism industry protest in Tel Aviv, Dec. 27, 2021 (Photo: Dickran Torrossian)

Health officials and politicians are even reconsidering the current mandatory quarantine for vaccinated individuals who come into contact with a person who tests positive for Omicron. If the predictions of the government pan out and the number of infections from Omicron skyrocket in the next two weeks, hundred of thousands of Israelis would be subject to quarantine leading to a lockdown more or less.

Even Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is in quarantine after his daughter tested positive yesterday for COVID.

Studies continue to show that Omicron is more contagious but less symptomatic than previous COVID-19 strains.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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